What is the Best Yarn for Knitting Socks?

Article by Emma Lane

The Best Yarn for Knitting Socks at a Glance:

  • Socks can be knit with any type of yarn, but some yarn is better suited for hand knit socks.
  • The best yarn for knitting socks is durable, elastic, able to withstand hard use, and moisture tolerant.
  • Choosing the right sock yarn is about picking the perfect fiber and yarn weight combination.

Sock knitting is addictive. Watching yarn transform stitch by stitch into a sock is inspiring and gratifying. And when you put on a pair of knitted socks, your feet feel wonderful, soaking up the love you put into your work. Even though you can knit socks with any type of yarn, when you hand knit socks, you know that there really is a best yarn for knitting socks.

Best Yarn for Knitting Socks Index

  1. What is Sock Yarn?
  2. What to Consider When Buying Sock Yarn
  3. What is the Best Yarn for Knitting Socks?
  4. Best Yarn Weight for Socks
  5. Popular Fiber Blends

What is Sock Yarn?

Sock yarn can be a confusing term as it is used both to indicate a specific yarn weight and to describe yarn used for knitting socks.

As a yarn weight, sock yarn is considered a super fine yarn by the Craft Yarn Council. This type of yarn is often referred to as fingering in the US and 4-ply in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. It is typically used with knitting needles sized US 1-3 (2.25-3.25mm).

But when discussing the best yarn for knitting socks, the term sock yarn refers to any type of yarn used to knit socks – anything from lace weight to bulky. Truly, any yarn weight can be used, but not all types of yarn are the best for knitting socks.

What to Consider When Buying Sock Yarn

When buying the best sock yarn, there are a few things you want to keep in mind.

  1. Socks need to stretch to go on your foot, but also need to hug your foot and calve to stay on. The best sock yarn will be elastic enough to stretch, but tightly plied to stay on.
  2. Socks need to be washed after use. Do you want to hand wash them or throw them in the washing machine? If the latter, make sure you get yarn labeled “superwash”. Personally, I avoid superwash yarn because it is harmful to the environment and to people.(source) (Note: Rosy Green Wool is the only environmentally friendly machine washable wool that I am aware of at this time.)
  3. Color is very personal, but you might want to keep in mind that patterns tend to show up better in solid colors, while variegated colors often distract your eyes from the stitches, causing your work to be hidden. Lighter colors also show patterns better, but they also show dirt more than darker colors.
  4. Smaller yarn weights will knit socks that conform better to the shape of your foot and take up less space in your shoes.

What is the Best Yarn for Knitting Socks?

When you go to your LYS, you’ll probably find a section of yarn called sock yarn. It’s created specifically for knitting socks. But is it the best yarn for knitting socks? Maybe, maybe not. It will come down to your personal preference and what you plan to do with the socks.

Whether you plan to wear your knitted socks around the house or in hiking boots on a rugged mountain trek are things that you need to consider when choosing the best sock yarn.

Best Yarn Weight for Socks

You don’t have to choose a yarn called sock yarn to knit socks.

Most knitters think the best sock yarn weight is fingering. Socks made with fingering weight yarn tend to be more comfortable to wear, take up less room in shoes, and can be nicely tailored to your feet.

Lace and light fingering weight yarns work well when you have a complicated pattern with a lot of stitches. But if your pattern is all stockinette stitch, and you want the sock to be warm, DK or sport weight yarn can work well, but the sock will be bulkier.

But if you’re looking to knit hiking socks, you should go with something heavier, such as worsted weight yarn. The socks will be thicker in your shoes than lighter yarn weights, but they’ll stand up better to outdoor activities.

Popular Fiber Blends

Personal preference plays a big role in the popular yarn blends used for knitting socks. Some knitters enjoy the coolness of cotton sock yarns, while others enjoy the cushiony warmth of pure wool. Other knitters enjoy natural fibers mixed with a bit of nylon or acrylic for extra durability.

No one wants itchy and scratchy socks, but the softer the yarn, the more likely it will pill and wear out quickly. It rarely has the long-lasting durability of coarser yarns. However, your feet are not as sensitive to the coarseness of fibers as your hands. Sock yarn that feels rough and scratchy to your hands may feel comfortable to your feet.

Most yarn that your LYS calls sock yarn contains nylon to add durability.

I personally prefer to use 100% wool for socks. It’s soft, elastic, and durable. It doesn’t stretch out with wear, like will happen with cotton and alpaca. The only downside is that because it isn’t mixed with nylon, it isn’t as long-lasting as a blended wool. This doesn’t bother me because it gives me a reason to knit more socks and buy more yarn. Win win!

If you’re allergic to wool, cotton might be your best yarn for knitting socks. It’s less durable and elastic than wool, so you might want to test different blends to find your favorite. Nylon or lycra usually need to be added to cotton yarn so that it won’t stretch or sag.

There are some fibers that are not recommended for knitting socks. They’re too delicate and your socks won’t last – holes will quickly develop. These fibers are silk, bamboo, angora, and cashmere.

Whatever yarn you choose, you should knit a swatch and carry it around for a while, subjecting it to hard use, to see how the yarn holds up. If it pills badly or looks worn, it may not be the best yarn for knitting socks.

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2 thoughts on “What is the Best Yarn for Knitting Socks?”

  1. I thought that silk would be strong enough to substitute for nylon in socks. Wrong! They wore out in just hours! You are right.
    Acrylic/wool blend is also very bad for holes. I haven’t tried 100% wool since my beautiful leicester socks wore out after just a few wearings. Thanks for your article.

    • Thanks Barb! It’s so frustrating to go to all of that work and toend up with holes. If your socks are wearing out in the same areas, have you tried to reinforce the areas before wearing or to knit with two strands of yarn for extra durability?

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